How to Cut Natural Stone Flooring

Marble, granite, travertine, engineered natural stone... all beautiful natural stones that luckily have similar cutting and installation techniques. Once you have selected and purchased your natural stone tile, next step is installation. No space is a perfect rectangle, so you’ll likely have to cut particular pieces of the natural stone tile so it fits within your designated space.

Cutting natural stone tiles may seem intimidating to the inexperienced, but with a little research and some careful planning you can cut and install a natural stone floor in less time than you think. Consider these tips before cutting your first natural stone tile:

What you’ll need:

  • A damp rag for cleaning
  • Measuring tape or ruler
  • A felt pen
  • Angle grinder / Diamond blade wet saw / Rail saw
  • Carborundum stone or 200-grit sandpaper
  • Your natural stone tiles

Steps:

1. Safety first. Make sure your tiles are clean before you start the process of inspecting and cutting the tiles.

2. Inspect the tiles. Some tile distributors recommend that you mix your natural stone tiles in order to ensure a “random” look throughout the floor. Set aside any broken or damaged tiles. Those will be used for cutting when the time comes. Also, inspect the thickness and length of the tiles. Are they straight or curved? Are we talking about tiles or slabs?

3. Set yourself up for safety. Make sure you use a respirator mask and safety glasses. Choose an area with an even foot, is open, and well ventilated.

4. Figure out the exact materials you need. If cutting a large amount of tiles for a large flooring project, you may want to invest in a diamond blade wet saw to lessen the labor.

  • Angle grinder: If the area is of small size and/or you need to make curved cuts you will probably need an angle grinder. This tool is used on tiles or slabs for dry cutting, grinding, shaping, routing and polishing.

  • Rail saw: Another option is using a rail saw for straight cuts on slab or tile. A rail saw is heavy duty and is often used by contractors to cut thick pieces of material. They allow greater flexibility in depth of cut, angle of cut and other options.

  • Wet saw: This type of saw comes with water attachments for some of them. Cuts are simple and straightforward with a wet saw. Push the tile through slowly – making sure that you are keeping a straignt line. Part of the visual charm of marble is its flaws and fracture lines, but these are also weak points where the stone can easily break, especially at the end of a cut. 

All of these tools can also be rented at most home repair and remodeling stores.

5. Prep the tiles. Measure the tiles to be cut carefully and mark with a felt-tip pen. Use a ruler to pre-score. Make sure the line is clearly marked.

6. Make the cut. Make your cuts carefully using the appropriate cutter (either a wet saw, rail saw, or angle grinder). 

7. Smooth edges. Smooth the cut tiles’ edges with a carborundum stone or 200-grit sandpaper.

More tips:

  • Refer to your distributor’s specific instructions regarding the type of natural stone you’ve purchased.
  • Some natural stone tiles are fragile, so make sure to support the tile with plywood when cutting. And work carefully near brittle edges and corners.
  • Keep in mind that you can have a tile store do these cuts for you if you don't want to attempt them.

More resources:

"Cutting Granite and other Natural Stone," Defusco.com

"How to Install Natural Stone Tile," The Family Handyman

 

 

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